As Ireland undergoes new regional lockdowns around the midlands to help tackle the spread of covid-19, the situation in Sweden could be looking somewhat more optimistic.

The Swedish government raised eyebrows around the start of the pandemic when they decided not to implement the same lockdown measures as many other Western countries. They didn’t shut down their economy or schools, and had much fewer restrictions on individual movement than their European and American counterparts. 

Following this decision, deaths in the Scandinavian country curved upward significantly in April and June, which drew wide condemnation from the international community. However, the curve finally flattened and settled at single digits around July 20th, and numbers have remained low since – a fact which the mainstream media have been slow to report.

Sweden, with a population of 10 million, has seen a total of 5,763 covid-19 deaths according to the World Health Organisation, representing 0.057% of the country’s overall population. Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland, with a population of 4.9 million, has seen 1,772 deaths, which represents 0.036%. In other words, Ireland has experienced a lower death rate than Sweden relative to population.

However, it is still unclear how many indirect deaths in Ireland will result from more other factors, such as cancer patients going untreated, and suicide from the economic fallout of lockdown. The full range of the damage is difficult to quantify. 

Additionally, both figures in Ireland and Sweden may be skewed by each country’s failure to secure nursing homes.

Back in April, Anders Tegnell, an epidemiologist for Sweden’s advisory Public Health Agency, said that the country had “underestimated the issues at care homes, and how the measures would be applied. We should have controlled this more thoroughly.” According to the Wall Street Journal, around half of all covid-19 deaths in Sweden were nursing home residents.

This mistake mirrors what happened in Ireland, with both the Irish and Swedish governments drawing fire over what many see as a failure to protect the elderly. Allegedly those elderly residents in Sweden suspected to have contracted covid-19 were put on palliative care, given morphine, and denied oxygen and IV fluids. Here in Ireland, as covered by Gript, the government was telling nursing homes to continue admitting visitors despite the risk to residents, and an HSE memo in May explicitly discouraged testing in nursing homes. It is plausible that this contributed significantly to the overall death rate in both countries.

The long term economic impact of the virus remains to be seen, but so far Sweden’s economy has only shrunk 8.6% in the April-to-June period, compared to the EU’s contraction of 11.9%. Spain’s economy shrank by 18.5%, Italy’s by 12.4%, and France’s by 13.8%.

Ireland too is on target for serious trouble, as forecast by Economic And Social Research Institute:

“Our Baseline scenario (which is considered the most likely to occur) follows the government roadmap for reopening through to August…In (this) scenario real GDP declines by 12.4 per cent this year. This compares with a decline of 17.1 per cent in the Severe scenario and an 8.6 per cent fall in the Benign scenario. Regardless of the scenario, the Irish economy is set to experience the largest annual decline in its history.”

Time will tell what the long-term outcome of these very different strategies will be.